Friday, May 03, 2024

2024.05.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Numbers 9:15–23

Read Numbers 9:15–23

Questions from the Scripture text: On what day does Numbers 9:15 take place (cf. Numbers 7:1; Exodus 40:33)? What happened to the tabernacle? What special name does Numbers 9:15 give to the tabernacle? What does the cloud look like, at what times (Numbers 9:15-16)? What would happen on occasion (Numbers 9:17)? What would the children of Israel do, when that happened? What else would happen? And what would the children of Israel do then? How does Numbers 9:18 interpret the lifting or settling of the cloud? What challenged their faith according to Numbers 9:19? And what did they do? What instance does Numbers 9:20 describe? And what did they do? And what instance does Numbers 9:21 describe? And what did they do? How do Numbers 9:22-23 summarize this? By whose hand had YHWH instructed them that this constituted commands.

Why does the Lord describe again, here, the cloud and its role? Numbers 9:15–23 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the promise-keeping Lord leads His people through their callings in this world.

Keeping of the Lord's promise. The Lord had promised that He would go with the people (Exodus 33:14–17, Exodus 34:9–11). When Moses first erected the tabernacle in Exodus 40:33–34, the Scripture affirmed that this was in keeping with that promise (cf. Exodus 40:36–38). Now that the Lord’s instruction and action in the book of Leviticus has solved the problem of Exodus 40:35, Israel is ready to set out from Sinai. And this passage (Numbers 9:15-23) and the next (Numbers 10:1–10) are a reminder that the Lord is keeping His promise. He is going with His people. He keeps all His promises; they are all yes, and amen in the Lord Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20), Who has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (cf. Matthew 28:20). 

Communication of the Lord's presence. The tabernacle is given a wonderful name in Numbers 9:15, the “Tent of the Testimony.” This may indicate the particular part of the tabernacle where the glory cloud rests, highlighting to them that the Lord indeed makes the presence of His glory to dwell where the ark of the testimony is. And He communicates this presence day and night, changing its appearance to make it distinctly visible at all times. He Who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, present to them and caring for them, day and night (cf. Psalm 121:4–6). 

Confidence in the Lord's power. This presence especially reminds Israel of the Lord’s power to protect them. When He first appeared to them this way, they had just left Egypt, and He led them day and night (cf. Exodus 13:21–22). Almost immediately, Pharaoh pursues them, but the Lord moves and places the display of Himself, as cloud and fire at the same time, between Egypt and Israel. He makes Himself darkness to Egypt and light to Israel (cf. Exodus 14:19–20). Now the same Power that confounded mighty Egypt goes with the in the wilderness and into the land. Is that power not with you, dear Christian. God the Son has tabernacled among us (cf. John 1:14). And believers are indwelt by God the Spirit (cf. John 14:16–18), by Whom the Father and the Son come and make their home with them (cf. John 14:23–27). 

Call for our perseverance. Numbers 9:19-23 emphasize how well Israel followed God’s lead, staying or moving for however long the cloud indicated to them. But that would not last. It is sobering to know what is coming in the rest of Numbers. Grumbling will overtake contentment. Subordination will overtake submission. Fear and rebellion will overtake faith and obedience. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:1–11)! By the grace of the One Who is present to us and powerful for us, look to Him to keep you in the faith.

How can you be sure that you will make it to where the Lord is sending you? In what ways does He make you to know His presence with you daily in the home and weekly in the assembly? What has He done in history to assure you that these things are perfectly reliable? What potential for unfaithfulness remains in you? What hope is there that you will not succumb to it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for coming and dwelling among us, first in Your Son, and then in Your Spirit. Grant that by Your grace, we would trust and obey you throughout this life, until You have brought us all the way home, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH159 “Abide with Me”

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